Strauss warns Flintoff over discipline

LONDON: England captain Andrew Strauss has issued a stern warning to Andrew Flintoff after the allrounder was disciplined for missing the team bus during a trip to the World War I trenches in Ypres. Strauss said he would be strong enough to drop Flintoff from England's Ashes team.

"Fred is always under pressure when he comes back and I feel for him in that respect," Strauss said. "He's obviously a big player for us and there's this circus that goes on around him. He was very aware he had stuffed up, he took it on the chin and apologised to everyone concerned. It was a very sincere apology and we move on."

"It is up to Fred what he does but I have no reason to suspect that is going to be an issue. He has been out of the side a long while and wants to do well in the Ashes. To me those are all good signs."

The trip to Belgium was organised as part of coach Andy Flower's objective to broaden their horizons and learn more about leadership and team ethics. Flintoff was back with England for the first time last Friday after spending weeks recovering from knee surgery.

Like the other 15 team members he visited Tyne Cot cemetery on Friday but missed the Saturday morning visit to the fields where the Battle of Passchendaele was fought. Flintoff reportedly had failed to meet the 8:10 am departure from the hotel in Flanders after the squad dinner the night before, even as he had been "working very hard" to avoid issues fuelled by drink.

Asked about Flintoff's relationship with alcohol, Strauss said: "I don't know; that is something for him to answer. I think it is something he has been working very hard on and he generally recognises when is the time to drink and not to drink.

"It is important career-wise he stays on the right side of that and the vast majority of the time I think he has done. As he has got older, I think he has become increasingly aware when is the right and wrong time to drink."

Strauss said that dropping Flintoff on disciplinary grounds would be no more or less an option than with any other player. "I am absolutely certain it is not going to come to that," he said. "You give guys responsibility to act the way they know they have to act to play good cricket. It is vital to a team functioning properly that everyone is treated the same and we will do that."

Strauss also revealed yesterday that Flintoff is not the only player to have been punished for poor timekeeping. "Punctuality has been an issue recently with a few players and is something we are trying to iron out and we are taking steps to make sure it doesn't happen again," he said.

Hugh Morris, the managing director of England cricket, said Flintoff's problem was an "alarm-clock issue" and that the player took a "full part" in the team meeting. "This is about Andrew missing the bus on Saturday morning. The matter was dealt with," Morris said.